It’s hard to believe, but when the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang take place, it will mark the 20th anniversary of the first women’s ice hockey tournament. 2018 will also mark the 20th anniversary of the United States’ last gold medal in this tournament.
“Well, we know it’s been 20 years. We don’t have to be geniuses to do that math,” said USA head coach Robb Stauber – who is heading into his first Olympics as the USA head coach – following his team’s 2-1 overtime loss to Canada in a pre-Olympic tour in St. Paul on Sunday.
Stauber also added on the time in between the last gold medal for Team USA, “[But] I think for us it’s not more about its been 20 years it’s more about its time [to win]. We have to bring home a gold medal.”
“We have to bring home a gold medal.”
The gold medal is the expectation for the United States, who has come up short in every tournament since those 1998 games in Nagano, Japan. In the four Olympic tournaments that have followed Nagano, the United States has won the silver medal three times and the bronze medal once (2006, lost to Sweden in the semifinals). In the three gold medal games they have appeared in, the US has ended up losing all to rival Canada – whom the US has not beaten in Olympic play at all since 1998 – with the most notable being an overtime loss in 2014.
That 2014 gold medal game might have stung the most, as the US hit the post on an empty net in the final 90 seconds and it was followed quickly by Canada’s game-tying goal. The Canadians went on to win in overtime via a 5-on-3 power play.
Defenseman and Warroad, Minnesota native Gigi Marvin – who is entering her third Olympics with Team USA – reflected on the team’s growth from those 2014 games to now by saying, “This is by far the best hockey that we’ve ever played. Everyone is pushing boundaries, pushing limits. Everyone is doing everything they can to make this team the best.”
Lee Stecklein, a defenseman and native of Roseville, Minnesota – who is entering her second Olympics, echoed the thoughts of Marvin and said the team has made many improvements to their game over the past couple of months to get to where they need to be come February.
With those games just two months away, there seems to be little question of what the identity of this team will be: Speed and skill.
Stauber says they are a team built on speed and that they need to continue to play fast. Marvin says that since they are a high-scoring team they need to focus on getting shots to the net. Both were areas of struggle for the United States on Sunday afternoon against Canada.
Stecklein echoed the same sentiments as Marvin and gave credit to new coach Stauber on the offensive approach by saying, “He just encourages creativity, something we all appreciate. Being given the freedom to play however we like while playing within the system. It’s something we all value.”
Speaking of Stauber, he was named head coach of Team USA for the 2018 games on May 1st, after guiding the team to gold at the 2017 World Championships. The former University of Minnesota goaltender and Hobey Baker award winner replaced Ken Kee behind the bench, after Kee led the team at the 2015 and 2016 World Championships.
Stauber has been with the USA women’s hockey program in a variety of roles, including goaltender coach, scout, and assistant coach (notably, the 2014 Winter games). Prior to that he was
When asked on what Stauber brings behind the bench, Marvin responded, “He’s great on seeing the game and the mental aspect to break the game down. He brings a great dynamic of competitiveness. We love it. He also brings a level of wisdom and experience to this team. He challenges us to see the game a different way.”
Stecklein said of Stauber, “Its been great [having him behind the bench]. Having the Minnesota connection is also fun.”
With all the pieces coming into place, and the final roster announcement less than a month away (Jan. 1), it all comes back to that one objective: Win the gold medal.
The United States and Canada will faceoff three more times in the next two and a half weeks, the first of which comes Tuesday night in Winnipeg. Following the conclusion of this tour, the US will return to their training facility in Wesley Chapel, Florida (a suburb of Tampa) and make their final preparations for PyeongChang.
On the direction his team is heading into PyeongChang, Stauber said, “We have a pretty good vision and we’re sticking with it. I like our direction.”